Area man following career in fashion

When Matthew Conmy graduated from Hawley High School in 2007, he knew he wanted to pursue a career in the arts --and what better place to do that than in the arts mecca of the United States, New York City.

Matthew Conmy
FASHION CLOTHING DESIGNER Matthew Conmy of Hawley is completing his schooling in New York.

When Matthew Conmy graduated from Hawley High School in 2007, he knew he wanted to pursue a career in the arts --and what better place to do that than in the arts mecca of the United States, New York City.

Set to graduate this spring from New York fashion college Parsons, Conmy has found his calling in fashion design, and already has a pretty impressive resume.

"I saw it was a great opportunity to build a better career and make money," he said of choosing fashion design versus a career in fine arts.

The four-year program at Parsons The New School for Design focuses on the foundation of arts the first year. Conmy said after the initial year, students pick their field of concentration.

"What I really love about fashion is the pace. It moves very quickly," he said. "I love the hands-on part of it."


Before discovering his calling in school though, Conmy said he had no interest in fashion. He knew nothing about women's fashion and hardly anything about men's. He'd never looked through a fashion magazine before.

"The challenge came so foreign to me," he said.

But, the challenge and excitement he's found in the profession is earning him a bachelor of fine arts degree in fashion design this spring.

That's not to say he's lost his passion for fine arts, though, with New York providing plenty of museums and galleries to visit.

Conmy has been working on his thesis project, getting his creations ready for models and a panel of judges.

To get started, Conmy and other designers find their inspiration. He said he takes it from anything and everything, not just clothes either -- buildings, art, anything that catches his eye.

"If you're not inspired, you have nothing to build off of," he said.

For his thesis project, he is working on what he would describe as a futuristic look to men's clothing, and he then "figures out how to communicate that" into the clothing designs and samples.


He spends time sketching out ideas and options -- "to get the bad ideas out" -- and comes up with a collection he wants to develop.

"They (professors) ask you to draw a ridiculous amount of sketches, hundreds a week."

For his thesis, he has cemented a sponsor to get his shoe designs produced in Italy, and he received a an opportunity through Saga Fur to get some fur clothing pieces produced.

"The biggest misconception about designers is people think of them as synthesizers. They don't make clothes, they propose them and others make them," he said.

Right now, he's doing the designing and the making.

The panel he will present his thesis before includes 15-20 professionals that work as buyers, editors, designers, and others from the fashion industry. He will present his clothing line, some on models, some just hanging on display, in 10 minutes.

"It's not ridiculous, that amount of time," he said of preparing four years for a 10 minute show, "but you really have to go through it."

The panel will then ask him questions like what designer does he see carrying this line, what price does he see for the outfits, what customers does he see purchasing the clothing, and where does he see himself in the next five years.


"I'm mentally prepared, but I still have a ton of work to do," he said.

More often than not, once the design is sketched out and he gets started on the actual sewing, the piece rarely looks like he had imagined. But it's about perfecting that piece of clothing, not the sketch.

"In the end, the customer is looking at the clothes on the rack, not the romantic inspiration," he said.

During his time at college in New York, he's interned in London with Peter Jensen, a Danish designer; Ohne Titel, a company owned by Tommy Hilfiger; and Banana Republic, where he worked in men's knits and sweaters. And he has dressed models for several runway shows.

Conmy said he is hoping -- not only for graduation -- but for a job offer to come from his thesis presentation.

He would like to work in menswear, but wouldn't mind women's or accessories as well. And regardless of the job, he said the location will definitely be in New York.

"Some people have an amazing opportunity open from there. It's rare though," he said of some students' designs being picked up from their thesis project. "A job would be nice, though," he added with a laugh.

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